The Explosive Rise of Anti-Asian Racism
Updated: Feb 17
Just admit it.
All of you reading this, are a little prejudice. Every single one of you, including your parents, grandparents, your kids, your siblings, your dog, everyone, just a little prejudice.
Case in point, if I wanted someone to make chicken tikka masala and my only two choices of people was someone from Mumbai or Sweden, and I didn't know anything else, there is no chance I choose the 6 foot 4, blonde hair, blue eyed dude to make my chicken tikka masala.
I'm choosing the 5 foot 8 dude with a mustache.
The Swedish man, could be a world-renowned chef, known to make the best chicken tikka masala ever. But the blonde hair would throw me off. In my head I'm thinking, I don't think he knows how to make a good chicken tikka masala simply because he doesn't look like he can.
Does that make me prejudice? By some definitions, yes. It's not fair for me to think he can't make a good chicken tikka masala simply from the way he looks. But, there are just some biases the human mind comes up with.
That type of prejudice, eh, not so bad. It's not right, but we all have had thoughts like that.
You know what's bad?
You know, where you hate someone because of the color of their skin, their religion, their culture, their ethnicity, etc. That should be eradicated from society. Unfortunately, it exists. Is it as bad as it was a century ago? No. But it exists in our society and it's wrong.
Since 2020, one particular ethnic group in the United States has seen an exponential rise in hateful, racist acts.
Asians, in particular, East Asians.
What are some facts of the Asian population in the US?
Asian-Americans make up around 5.5%-6.5% of the total US population which is approximately 20 million people.
Asia is the largest and most populous continent in the world so it would be foolish to think all the Asians living in the US are the same. 24% of Asians in the US are of Chinese origin, 20% are of Indian origin, 19% are Filipino, followed by large percentages from Korea, Japan, Vietnam and other places.
Majority of Asians live on the West Coast, followed by the South, the Northeast and then the Midwest. Asian Americans are the fastest growing Immigration population in the United States and is expected to be the second largest immigration population in the US by 2055, surpassing the Hispanic population.
What are some myths of the US Asian population?
There is a perception out there that all Asian Americans are well off. It's simply not true. As a whole, Asian Americans have medium annual household incomes that are higher than the average American household ($73K vs $54K) but that number is skewed by subgroups within the Asian community. Indian Americans have the highest income levels in the country and that skews the Asian Population as a whole.
In fact, out of the 19 Asian groups analyzed by the Pew Research Center, 8 of those groups fall below the US Poverty level. Hmong (28%), Bhutanese (33%) and Burmese (35%) groups have the highest level of poverty amongst Asian groups living in the US.
14% of New York City's population is Asian but surprisingly, one fifth of them are living in poverty, a staggeringly high number.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Asian Americans particularly hard
Asian American owned businesses saw a rapid decline in business prior to the March lockdown as fear swept the nation. Many believed going to Asian restaurants or supermarkets was dangerous simply because they were Asian. Chinatown's across the US saw less foot traffic.
Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, who represents a very heavily Asian populated district in San Francisco, tried to ease fears back in February of 2020 by visiting that cities Chinatown and holding a press conference.
According to the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, nearly 2 million small businesses are owned by Asian Americans across the country, which employs 3.5 million people. Based on the analysis they did, 75% of those businesses aren't eligible for financial relief because they have no relationships with financial institutions.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the unemployment rate for Asians in New York City, was 3.4%. That number surged to 25.6% in 2020, the largest increase among all groups. Many of these folks work in the food service/restaurant industry as well as apparel manufacturing. In California, 83% of Asian Americans in the labor force with a high school degree or lower, applied for unemployment benefits, compared to 37% of the same demographic in California.
An astonishing and preposterous stat from 2020. Filipinos make up 4% of the entire nursing population in the United States. However, 1/3rd of all nurses who died in 2020 from COVID-19 were Filipino.
The COVID-19 pandemic has fueled Anti-Asian sentiment across the United States
The COVID-19 virus, which originated in Wuhan, China in late 2019, is the main driver for anti-Asian sentiment across the United States. Many Americans have blamed the general Asian population in the US for something they have nothing to do with.
Ispos, one of the premier research and polling firms in the country, conducted a poll in April of 2020 that found 3 in 10 Americans partially blamed Chinese people for the virus.
According to the NYPD, in the first 3 months of 2020, 40% of the racially motivated crimes that had an arrest associated with it were related to anti-Asian sentiment. The same time period in 2019, only 6.1% of racially motivated crimes related to anti-Asian sentiment. Overall, in New York City, through November of 2020, anti-Asian hate crimes were up 700% from the year before. This is only for reported crimes. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of incidents that occur that don't get reported.
Russell Jeung, a professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University, created a self reporting tool on his website, Stop AAPI Hate. His tool recorded 2,808 incidents. The Asian Americans Advancing Justice group has another self reporting tool that reported more than 3,000 hate incidents.
What were some of the more well know anti-Asian incidents to occur?
VIcha Ratanapakdee was an 84 year old man of Thai descent killed in San Francisco. He was walking and pushed violently to the ground for no reason what so ever.
A 91 year old Asian man was pushed unprovoked in San Francisco earlier this year
An 89 year old woman in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn was set on fire during the summer of 2020 which set off the #TheyCantBurnUsAll movement.
Is there anything being done about this?
Joe Biden signed an executive order on January 26 directing federal agencies to combat racism against Asian Americans. This is a far outcry from the previous Presidential regime which added rocket fuel to the anti-Asian sentiment by referring to the COVID-19 virus as "Kung Flu" and other Asian stereotypes.
The NYPD created an Anti-Asian Hate Crimes Unit. Actors Daniel Dae Kim and Daniel Wu banded together to offer a $25,000 reward that would lead to arrests of the several attacks against elderly Asian folks in the Bay Area. Raymond Yu, also known as China Mac, has spent the last year using his platform to bring awareness to the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes across the US. He and several other organizers created the #TheyCantBurnUsAll campaign after the 89 year old Asian woman was burned in Bensonhurst.
Hate is hate no matter who it's against
Asian Americans play a vital role in America's society. They do not deserve the severe backlash they have faced over the past year.
One thing we can't do as a society is compare one groups plight against another. Some say the issues facing Asian Americans aren't as bad as some other groups have encountered. Comparing the difficulties of two different groups that have been marginalized in society is a dangerous way to discount the issues facing that particular group.
Instead, we should come together as a society and understand the issues each of them is facing. Communication, outreach, understanding and empathy is how we move forward to creating solutions to combat the hate that we see.